Even before the pandemic, people were unshackling themselves from their desks and heading out into the world, on an adventure that took their work along with them. But for many, a perennial problem is digital nomad banking – how to pay and get paid, quickly and without incurring tons of fees?
Now, two years after covid-19 erupted and changed the way we all work forever – with remote working suddenly becoming the norm – the rush to get out there is stronger than ever. Why should you stay cooped up in your home office in dreary-weather climates when you can take off for exotic places and live the life you’ve always wanted?
With travel restrictions scrapped in many countries, and others just requiring covid testing to enter, digital nomads are heading to desirable locales around the globe – and a growing number of countries are adding a “digital nomad visa” to lure the wandering workers to their shores and help bolster their post-pandemic economies.
Best Digital Nomad Banking & Money Transfers
PayPal was once the money transfer choice of many, but with its hefty fees and poor exchange rates, many have left the pioneering service and flocked to better and cheaper nomad banking options. Below are the best digital nomad bank accounts and nomad-friendly money transfer services based on our editorial reviews (80+ providers covered to date) and our best international money transfer services, best multi-currency account and best international bank accounts articles.
Wise Account (nomad money transfers and debit card)
Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, is one of the most nomad-friendly money transfer companies. It also offers virtual nomad bank accounts denominated in multiple currencies.
First and foremost, Wise takes pride in its fair and transparent fee scheme, and the bottom line is you are likely to pay less than 0.5% in fees on average per transfer, regardless of transfer size or currencies involved. Similarly if you need to receive money from a bank account abroad, whether you’re transferring money from your own account abroad or accepting a foreign exchange payment, you will pay as little as 0.5% in fees using the Wise multi-currency bank account. Wise accounts are available in the UK, EU, Poland, Australia, New Zealand and USA, but you can hold money in 50+ currencies.
Wise also boasts a multi-currency debit card connected to your Wise account, so you can withdraw funds directly in any currency, and make payments without paying exorbitant fees for the currency exchange. This makes it an “almost holistic” solution to traditional banking for nomads.
WorldFirst Account (business money transfers)
WorldFirst is a similar solution to Wise’s, just oriented exclusively at online sellers and other business owners (including sole proprietors), but unlike Wise, it does not accept American clients.
WorldFirst’s foreign exchange fees are even lower than Wise’s and go as low as 0.15% for businesses turning in massive volumes, and its online multi-currency account platform is as smooth. In fact, WorldFirst reach in Asia is far superior to that of any company in this space. Bank accounts are available in the UK, France, Germany, USA and Canada, as well as Singapore, China and Japan (recent additions).
Unlike Wise, WorldFirst does not offer a debit card and focuses exclusively on bank-to-bank transfers, and is apt exclusively for digital nomad businesses.
HSBC International Bank Account (best nomad banking)
If you need a nomad bank account with all the functionalities that can only be offered by banks, then the HSBC International Bank Account (previously HSBC Expat Bank Account) is arguably the best nomad banking solution for your needs. Wise, WorldFirst and Payoneer don’t offer current and savings accounts, as they don’t hold a banking licence per se.
With HSBC, accounts are available in GBP, EUR and USD, with all accounts held in Jersey (Channel Islands). Savings accounts are available in a further 16 currencies. There’s a minimum hurdle to open an account (you must have £50,000 deposited into the account to activate it, or show proof of a minimum £100,000 salary). Perhaps the most enticing element is the 1% interest offer, available for 3-month deposits, that nomad money transfer companies simply can’t offer.
Payoneer Account (b2b and b2c money transfers + debit card)
Fourth on this list of digital nomad money transfers is Payoneer, which offers a holistic solution for businesses needing to make international payments, as well as for nomads who need to receive foreign currency payments from abroad. Payoneer’s nomad banking solution enables businesses to make payments swiftly and effectively, for cheaper-than-bank fees. More importantly, it enables freelancers and digital nomads in 50+ countries to receive payments that are instantly cashable through the Payoneer Mastercard.
While Payoneer’s foreign exchange fees can be higher than those of Wise or WorldFirst, it has a different offering and wider range of currencies.
In Digital Nomad Demand: Exotic Heat & Speedy Wifi
Surveys show many digital nomads make a beeline to countries that are out of the ordinary, compared to their home nations. Colourful Southeast Asia is popular for those on the move, with Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore regularly making it into the top five digital nomad destinations.
There, they’re guaranteed year-round high temperatures; extremely low food, accommodation and other costs, compared to back home; and internet connectivity and speed that often puts Western net to shame.
In Europe, sunspots Portugal and Spain lead nomads’ destinations of choice, but the milder climes of Romania, Czech Republic and Germany also attract lots of remote workers.
And, when the day’s work is done, whether at one of the many coworking spaces that have popped up to cater to the rise of the digital nomad or they close their laptop at their new home office overlooking the beach, mountains or ricefields, there are so many more fun things to do. Sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling, scuba diving and many other exciting outdoor activities are also a big draw for staff living abroad – as long as they can get paid with effective digital nomad international money transfers.
On the Job, Away from Home
Any job that doesn’t require your physical presence, like working in a shop or hospital, can be done from anywhere in the world, thanks to advances in internet technology that make it more readily available, stable and fast. As long as your work is based around a computer (it is “digital” nomad, after all). And there’s no need to travel to the office for meetings when they can be done in a flash on Zoom, delivering a big environmental benefit too – helping to save the planet with fewer carbon emissions while making organisations more efficient and saving money.
Today’s top digital nomad jobs include:
- Digital marketing, including copywriting, social media, paid ads
- Website developer
- Language teaching
- Customer service
- Graphic designer
These jobs, paid via nomad money transfer services or digital nomad banking solutions, can be done remotely on a full-time, part-time or freelance basis; and many employers give their digital nomads the freedom to work when they choose – 9 to 5 has also gone out the window. So now, you can work in the morning, surf the waves in the afternoon and put in more hours in the evening or weekend. This ideal work-life balance has become increasingly desirable to the younger generations, who don’t want to be slaves to the office.
These and other nomad banking services allow people on the go to have multi-currency accounts, international cards and make substantial savings in fees they might otherwise have to pay their banks — and endure frustrating delays of days for money to arrive. They are time and cost benefits that can be put towards planning and journeying to another part of the world.